dog photographer Northamptonshire

What is a legacy?

Jun 16, 2022 | Musings

We often think about the term ‘legacy’ in a very human way, but I firmly believe that our pets leave a unique legacy all of their own, something that deserves to be remembered and celebrated. 

When we remember the pets that we’ve loved over the years, it’s hard to forget the impact they’ve had on our lives – and the lives of those around us. Whether they were with us for a lifetime or even just a short time, pets have a profound way of leaving their mark – not just on our hearts, but on the world around us.

I believe that every single pet leaves behind a legacy – it isn’t always tangible, it can’t always be measured, but their very being changes the world for the better.

In human terms, we often imagine a legacy as being something a person leaves behind after they die, like an inheritance or a gift. The idea of legacy usually reminds us of death, but it’s really more about life. It’s about the life that an individual led, and how their actions or thoughts live on after they’ve gone. It could be the incredible charity work that someone does during their lifetime, or something they create or invent that goes on to impact the lives of many others around the world.

But it doesn’t have to be awe-inspiring or revolutionary. I like to think that a legacy can be something as small as a family recipe being handed down from generation to generation – a delicious, heartwarming reminder of our loved ones that we’ll continue to enjoy for years to come. It could be a simple piece of advice that goes on to change someone’s entire life path. It could be a random act of kindness when someone needs it most. These are the legacies that we can build every day, making the world a better place on small act at a time.

And this is exactly why I believe in the legacies of our pets.

young woman holding a yorkshire terrier dog in the woodlands
A young woman wearing a bobble hat is being licked in the face by a black labrador dog

We often hear stories of animals that save lives or do amazing jobs – mountain rescue dogs, medical detection dogs, service animals, even animals donating blood to save the lives of other pets.

And there are pets whose stories leave such an impact that they inspire action in others – if it weren’t for a little spaniel called Lucy then we’d never have seen the introduction of ‘Lucy’s Law’ – a landmark piece of animal welfare legislation designed to tackle puppy/kitten farms and illegal breeding practices.

These animals have an incredible impact on society, shaping a better, safer world for humans and animals alike. That is their legacy.

Most of our pets won’t ‘save lives’ or ‘change the world’ – not in the way that goes down in the history books, at least. But I know plenty of pet owners who would argue that their pet did change the world – their world.

Even animals that are ‘challenging’, or ill-tempered, or reactive – they teach us patience and empathy and courage. Even dogs like Lucy – abused and traumatised – can inspire us to make the world a better place.

It’s the animals that enter our lives when we’re at our lowest, and help us get back up when we fall, simply by being there. It’s the comfort and companionship that they bring us when we’re lonely or scared, simply by being by our side. It’s the way they light up a room with their silly antics and bring people together, simply by being themselves.

Those moments, no matter how small or fleeting, change our lives for the better, and stay with us forever.

I think that’s worth celebrating, don’t you?

Owner hugging dog in flowers
young woman holding a small terrier dog in a field of tall grass

Pet Loss Support

Losing a beloved pet is like losing a family member, and while reflecting on their lives can bring us great comfort, it can also be difficult.

I’ve gathered a short list of resources and online communities that can help to support you on your pet loss journey.

Fine art pet portrait artist | Northamptonshire, East Midlands, UK